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IVF Children Do Not Have Increased Risk of Cancer

Adapted from New England Journal of Medicine.

The possibility of an increased risk of cancer in children conceived with In Vitro Fertilization has been suggested in a Swedish study of 26,692 children born after assisted conception. A total of 47 cancers were observed which represents a slightly higher risk of childhood cancer than in children conceived without assisted conception.

Subsequently, a large study by Williams et al. aiming to provide robust risk estimates for childhood cancer in children born after assisted conception was conducted in the U.K. and published in the November 2013 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

106,013 children younger than 15 years of age who were conceived by non–donor-assisted conception (i.e., IVF) and born in Britain between 1992 and 2008, were included in the analysis. A total of 108 children were identified as having received a diagnosis of cancer. The mean age at diagnosis was 4.2 years.

On the basis of a total number of expected cancers in general population of children (109.7), the incidence ratio in the study cohort was 0.98 (greater than 1.0 would mean increased risk of cancer).

Similar results were obtained with stratification according to sex, age, birth weight, gestational age at birth, singleton versus multiple birth, parity, maternal and paternal age, type of assisted conception, fresh versus cryopreserved embryos, and cause of parental infertility.

In conclusion, this study showed no increase in the overall risk of cancer among children who were born after assisted conception, as compared with the expected risk of cancer in the general population of children. This is reassuring for couples considering assisted conception, children conceived in this way, and their families and clinicians.

July 2014

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